Recently, my roommate's sister went on vacation and I offered to take care of her kitten for her in the 1-2 weeks she is going to be gone.

The feeding instruction she told me is to leave dry food out at all times for the kitten and give her a can of wet cat food once a day. I typically open a can of wet cat food when I get home from work around 5:30pm.

The problem is, the kitten never finishes the wet cat food in one sitting. She will typically eat half of it and over the next 12+ hours finish it.

Food safety states that any food stored in the danger zone(room temperature falls in this danger zone) for more than 2 hours will drastically increase chance of food sickness. I know the dry pet food is processed enough that it does not matter. However I am a little worried about the wet cat food.

Does leaving wet cat food out at room temperature for a long period of time pose a risk for your cats?


Upon further research, I found that cats are very resistant to pathogens that are commonly found in food that has been sitting out at room temperature.

  • Salmonella - cats are really resistant to Salmonella which are commonly found in raw meat;
  • E. Coli - this is a bacterium commonly found in cat stomach;
  • Campylobacter - also commonly found in cat stomach;
  • Clostridium perfringens - these bacteria rarely affect cats, they more often affect dogs;
  • Staphylococcus aureus - commonly found bacteria in cat mucus glands;
  • Norovirus - this is a virus that affect humans;
  • Toxoplasma gondii - cats have very high immunity to this parasite.


  • 2
    A full can of wet is kind of a lot for a full grown cat, much less a kitten. You might give half a can or even a third. My two young cats split a small can each meal, plus have dry. That said, aside from the aroma there's never been any harm from leaving the remnant out until the next meal in my 40 years or so of experience.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 21:16
  • I wouldn't say that cats are immune to toxoplasmosis, they are actually one of the most common carriers of the parasite. It just doesn't affect them.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 2:26
  • 3
    Given the research you have put into your question, you might consider a bit more research and post your own answer. I am sure many would benefit who have the same question. Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 10:09
  • @James Jenkin, that is definitely an option. However I would like wait a little while longer to see if there is anyone else who knows more about this than I do. Plus there are a lot of conflicting information I came across when i did my preliminary research that confused me.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 13:30
  • you write "Upon further research, I found that cats are very resistant to bacteria and virus that are commonly found in food that has been sitting out at room temperature, such as Salmonella - E. Coli - Clostridium perfringens - Staphylococcus aureus - and Norovirus. One thing that most people don't think about. While most people have separate dishes for their pets, you also should have separate utensiles, (spoons, mostly). Bacteria from those diseases can linger on a spoon even after it is washed in the dishwasher which can effect humans later on if the same spoon is used later. (I heard this
    – markiemark
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


I can answer this question on the basis of my experience as a chef with certification in Food Safety, Sanitation, and Hygiene.

The golden rule in food service is "4 between 40 and 140." That is to say, in most places in the U.S., Food Safety and Sanitation guidelines state that food which has been between the temperatures of 40° F (4.4° C) and 140° F (60° C) for 4 hours must be disposed of. This is based on the growth rates of various kinds of harmful bacteria and other pathogens in this range of temperatures. The range is commonly referred to as the "TDZ", or "Temperature Danger Zone".

While cats and dogs are biologically different from us, it stands to reason that they probably shouldn't be exposed to things that are obviously dangerous to us.


  • 1
    I've always been taught 2 hours in the danger zone is the threshold. Never heard of 4 hours.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 1:21
  • @Jay - In my HAACCP and ServSafe courses, it was always 4 hours. Obviously, the less time, the better, but my training was consistent in saying that the rule was 4 hours. The guidelines aren't intended to tell you what is best, only what is legally permissible.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 2:15
  • 1
    @Jay - 2 hours for raw meat.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 19:13
  • 2
    Although regardless of the 2 or 4 hours, the answer doesn't provide much more information than what my question already provided. I have already initially stated I knew that it wasn't safe by human standard to leave food out for a certain amount of time at room temperature. I was looking for more specific information why or why not it was okay for a cat/other pets.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 20:16
  • @Jay - I think cats and dogs are more resistant to most food borne illnesses than we are - they sometimes eat rotting animals and poop - but I don't think that should be taken to mean that we should test this resistance. As a dog owner, and former owner of a dog walking and pet sitting business, I try to avoid feeding animals anything that I wouldn't eat on grounds of food safety (although palatability is another matter entirely). I can also assure you that on at least two occasions, my dog and I have gotten food poisoning at the same time from the same food.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 20:20

I would not suggest leaving wet cat food out for more than an hour or two tops. Wet cat food at room temperature is a perfect environment for bacteria cultures, which can grow quite quickly and may pose a threat to the animal. If the kitten consistently eats about half a can when you put it out, then I would only put out half a can. The other half can be safely stored in an airtight container or Ziploc bag in the refrigerator and be served later in the day or the next day.

  • 2
    Snap-on lids are available for cans, if that's more to your preference.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 14:09
  • Salmonella and E.Coli are the main concerns for humans when we leave food out. However I read that cats are very resistant to both of these bacteria. That's how they are able to eat raw meat.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 19:51

THE QUESTION ABOUT REFRIGERATED CANNED CAT FOOD: I called the Purina company who makes this product and she said, yes, refrigerate it. It can sit out for an hour before feeding or you can also warm it up in the microwave. Not more than 4 seconds though.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.